Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three Years and a Lifetime Later!

Maybe, as you start reading this, you can hear me sigh.
After all, it's been a very long time since I've blogged here. In fact, it's been exactly three years and three days!

So, let's see. Since then, I've opened and closed a restaurant (ah...Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York...which we closed exactly 1 year ago today), written Latin Twist, a blog for LoHud, gone back to teaching ESL (English as a Second Language), been an event planner and caterer, taught many cooking classes,   made dozens of drinks,  served many meals, had the pleasure of meeting lots of lovely people, watched my son move to Ecuador,  my daughter to Brooklyn, and most recently, started spending way more time with my husband, parents, and friends.

Those of you who know me know that all of these things are so important in my life. I can't imagine life without my big three Fs: family, friends, and food. The connection between people and food/culture is full of beauty and delight; it's one that that never ceases to impress and amaze. My mission continues to be that of bringing together diverse people and their stories over our common ground: food.

I'm kicking off this first blogafter being inspired by a Saturday visit to the New Rochelle Farmer's Marketwith a recipe for one of my favorite soups, gazpacho, which was published two years ago in my LoHud Small Bites column,  Latin Twist .

And also, speaking of the New Rochelle Farmer's Market, I will be doing a demo there on
Saturday, October 8th, at 11 am. I'm still figuring out what I'm making; the market has so much to choose from.

So I close today, with the promise of bringing you more tales and treats in the not-too-distant future.
Thank you for your support always, and I look forward to seeing all of you in the kitchen!
All the best,

PS My new portrait, featured here on my blog, was taken at Alvin & Friends, by the fabulous New Rochelle-based photographer, Rodney Bedsole.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday's Mambo 64 Musings: And now it's September!

Last weekend we were graced with many new customers at Mambo 64 (thanks to LoHud, friends' blogs, Yelp, Trip Advisor Facebook,  and more!) and they asked me the same question: When did you open?

Honestly my friends, in many ways it feels like a looooong time ago! But truth be told, it's only been a few months. The adventure continues!

I was thinking about how beautifully intertwined our lives can be. When I was just 19, sitting in Casa Peret (Jamie and Cary, I'm sure you were with me!) student lunch cafe in Barcelona, drinking wine--which was cheaper than water--and eating, eating, when I met the person that would become my year-long roommate: Margarita Maza.

Marga, who is Chilean, shared an apartment with Montse and Maria Cinta, two Catalanas. They were looking for a fourth roommate, and that's exactly what I became. That lunch in Casa Peret, and the casual conversation I had with Marga, led me to find a place to live, as well as people who taught me so much about my new home. On top of that, I had--serendipitously--found contemporaries from a totally different culture who were as fascinated by many of the same things I was.  Our living situation was ideal.We enjoyed hanging out, listening to music, going out, and of course, cooking.

But the whole thing--and my point of today's post--is that my year abroad also taught me something huge about people: I learned that despite our very diverse upbringings, we could share so much. For example, and I remember so vividly this moment, we were sitting on the beach in Tarragona--where Marga's mom lived. And we were talking about qualities we enjoyed and appreciated in people. Like a lightbulb (raised on cartoons, you know!), it went off in my head: we are so different as far as where we grew up, both geographically and politically, yet we share similar tastes, interests, and values.
With Marga at Her Home During our Reunion Visit!
That sharing has, thankfully, occurred on numerous occasions--and on many continents: Asia, Africa, and South America, North America--as well as Europe. Whether they're market vendors, servers, students, managers, tourists--it seems that I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people with whom I bonded on one level or another;  and each time I am delighted and amazed by it...and often moved to tears when it's time to say goodbye.

These days I most enjoy meeting different customers--who also have a myriad of backgrounds and stories! And though thankfully I'm not as tearful upon my customers' departures (!),  I continue to find people fascinating--even, and perhaps especially, when we're from different places--but share a love or appreciation of something, be it a flavor--or something totally non-food related. 

The adventure continues...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday's Mambo 64 Musings: Lunch Starts Tomorrow!

The adventure continues at Mambo 64--and I'm still enjoying the post-opening delight of meeting and greeting old and new friends!  I'm currently delighted and fascinated by our guests; many of them share my passion for travel and food. I thank you all for your shared enthusiasm, and your lovely wishes!

On Saturday I was telling a customer that our menus are not only reflective of my travels, but also of what I like to eat.

This is as true for my dinnertime menu, as it is for lunch, which, my friends, starts TOMORROW!

But, okay, I have another confession. As much as I love Cuban sandwiches, and miss my Miami jaunts where I feasted on 'em, it was my husband's idea. Yes, Seth was the one who said, "You should feature Cuban sandwiches on the lunch menu!" Y, pues, aquí están--here they are!

But it's not just Cuban sandwiches; we are including some other bits (bites!) which, again, are some of my favorites: maduros--perfectly roasted ripe plantains, sweet potato fries--I've been in love with them since I lived in Peru many moons ago, and finally--the nutty-sweet flavors of yuca, topped with our red sofrito.  Salads--well, they're always a lovely complement, and we're offering the night-time selection, as well as one based on what we find at the market!  Our soup--which will be our interpretation of a classic Spanish gazpacho--is refreshing and tasty (perfect with a glass of our Sauvignon Blanc, OR Passion Fruit Sangría--OR an ice-cold beer...or, of course, our ginger lemonade!).

Hope to see you at Mambo 64 for lunch--dinner, Happy Hour--all of the above! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday's Mambo 64 Musings

Remember when your baby was little, and you were so concerned about everything--just simply everything--and in a kind of delirious state of joy mixed with frequent concerns/anxiety? I think that aptly describes the first week of restaurant ownership! It's an exciting and wonderfully consuming venture. And though I'm exhausted, I can't help but liken it to the same feeling I had when my little babies were born. Yes, I feel like I have a newborn!
My "newborn" Mambo 64! 

And I feel lucky...
Don't be fooled: just like raising a child, growing a business requires great patience, persistence, and assistance, in every sense of all those words. As I've said numerous times over the past few weeks, it's all an amazing adventure...

So, last Friday morning, at dawn, I had the pleasure of watching the sunrise over Manhattan--from the Jersey side. I'd never been to Weekhawken before; Wow--what a view of New York from there!  And though it was crazy early, I talked--with lovely Vicky Sosa--about making my passion fruit sangría which, my friends, is the perfect cooling cocktail. (We've got it chilled and waiting for you at Mambo 64!) 

Posing "on set" with my  Passion Fruit Sangría for Friday's Buenos Días Nueva York segment! 

For the recipe, please check out my Latin Twist post for Passion Fruit Sangría
More tales from Mambo 64 coming soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sunday Dinners: Pizza in the Afternoon!

Well, times they are a changin'--and Sunday dinners at home will be moved into meals at the restaurant... And these days it's all about getting Mambo 64 up to speed so that we can open our doors and let some people in! It's an adventure every day, and a learning experience like none I've ever enjoyed before. Am I excited? Of course! Nervous? Definitely! Happy? Totally--

What I like most about it is that it's a challenging experience on all levels. After all, I've always cooked for family and friends, and welcomed them all into my home (and of course cooked at others' homes, too!). But this is different...and I know my ride has just started.

So, though I didn't cook the typical Sunday dinner, I had a great afternoon snack (thanks Petie!)--
Afternoon Snack-- of Chicken Marsala Pizza--with some hot pepper flakes--thanks to my brother, and Villaggio Pizza, next to Mambo 64! 

--and Seth sampled Chef Steph's execution of my jerk chicken, roasted tomato and black bean quinoa, sofrito, cilantro rice, some pernil...and a few other tasty treats to be featured on Mambo 64's menu...
Yes, the ride is just beginning...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sunday Dinners: Mother's Day Dinner...Shrimp with a Blood Orange, Onion and Cilantro Sauce

It's been quite an interesting week plus, and I'm wondering if I should be calling this, "In the Restaurant with Arlen!" from now on! Well, regardless of the name, it will be a little bit of that!
The sign on the front is true: We are almost there! 
So, as of the 1st, I've been spending all my days--and evenings--getting my restaurant (YAY!) ready. We hope to open the doors to the public at 5 pm on Tuesday, May 28th (YAY again!). In the meantime, it's been a wonderful whirlwind of all kinds of activity.

Well, now I know that this is probably one of the last Sundays I'll cook at home (or in my parents' home)  for a long time, and, of course, it's Mother's Day! So, while Seth is making ribs (one of my favorite grilled treats!), I wanted to make something I thought my mom would like--and something that I might bring into Mambo 64: Shrimp with a Blood Orange, Onion, and Cilantro Sauce. Hence this dish was born!

And, since Seth, my dear husband, was in the mood for ribs (and we're ALWAYS in the mood for Seth's ribs!) he made 'em. Perfect combination. We're thinking about maybe having a Seth's Ribs Night in Mambo 64! Oh--I also made a side of mixed grains (couscous, and more!) with roasted tomatoes, toasted almonds, golden raisins, and fresh basil. That also worked well with both dishes! (And if I can write about it on Wednesday, I will!)

Oh--by the way, Mom loved it. Dad, too. Actually both dads... Well, really we were all happy!

Seth's Ribs in the Background, Shrimp in the Foreground! 

Here's the recipe for the shrimp:

Shrimp with a Blood Orange, Onion and Cilantro Sauce

Serves 8 to 10

Olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
Rosé or white wine
1 orange, peeled, pitted and diced
3/4 cup frozen blood orange purée concentrate
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
2 pounds large shrimp (I used frozen, 20/25 count), frozen and thawed or fresh (I prefer fresh...)
Fresh asparagus from the garden!  (We were lucky!)

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onions and cook them until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup of  rosé (that's what I had on hand!) or white wine, and let it absorb. Add the orange and the frozen purée concentrate. Cook, stirring frequently. Add wine for more liquid as needed (you want it to be a little liquidy). Set aside. When you're about ready to serve dinner, heat a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the ginger and cook until lightly fragrant. Add the shrimp and stir.  Add the sauce, a splash or two of wine, and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Add the fresh asparagus, and cook until the shrimp is tender (don't overcook) and the asparagus is bright green and crispy. Add the cilantro and serve! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sunday Dinners: Spring Fruit Salsa with an Italian Twist

Those flower "snowballs" of pink that contrast so beautifully against a blue sky, not to mention the bright yellow of the forsythia, and wow, so many more colors, all remind us: spring is a great time.

Inspired by the season, and by what I saw in the store (I'm SUCH a sucker for any well-displayed produce!), I created this spring salsa.

One thing I do have to tell you: I used that amazing Italian olive oil I've been telling you about: Poggio Grimodi Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (And I promise to soon tell you how you can get your hands on it!) The quality of all the ingredients, as I've mentioned before, will totally make your dishes shine...

Back to my spring salsa...
Simple, colorful, and so tasty, you can serve this on a chip, or atop grilled fish and/or chicken. Hmmm...I'd try it with shrimp, and maybe grilled zucchini. Ah, my friends, the sky's the limit! 

Spring Fruit Salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of salsa 

6 large strawberries, washed, stemmed, and diced
1/2 cup fresh diced mango
1/4 cup fresh diced pineapple
1/4 cup mache lettuce, coarsely chopped
Cilantro (optional), to taste
Excellent quality Italian olive oil (about 2 splashes, or to taste)  
Juice from 1 orange, or 1 splash white balsamic vinegar  
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine, taste, and serve!